The Sun’s Credulous Take on Stanley Rochkind
The Baltimore Sun‘s Justin George, Ian Duncan and Carrie Wells took a look at the Wall Hunter project this weekend (City Paper has a comprehensive story on the project in the works) and allowed a couple of whoppers to go unchallenged. First it quoted a Danny Steger, who the paper identifies as an employee of a trust, NB2, calling the mural on the trust’s building (pictured) “a hate crime.”
Carol Ott, founder of the Slumlord Watch blog (now Housing Policy Watch), defends herself from the anti-Semitism charge.
It’s probably fair enough to allow readers to consider the source of the charge and the reputation and words of the artist Gaia, who is also quoted for the piece.
But the Sun also states flatly that the Wall Hunters, who claimed the building is “controlled” by Stanley Rochkind,” targeted the wrong guy. Rochkind’s lawyer says Rochkind does not own the building in question. This is an interesting claim, as the available documentation regarding ownership of that building mentions the Rochkinds at least three times, and every other real estate paper trail regarding the property also leads back to the Rochkinds.
Here’s how the Sun handled it (emphasis mine):
At 4727 Old York Road, where the street artist “Gaia” commingled images of African-American and Jewish history on the side of the house, a nearby sign listed NB2 Business Trust as the owner. But it incorrectly labeled the trust “A Stanley Rochkind controlled entity,” according to Steger. Steger said Rochkind is not part of the trust and does not own the home. Rochkind at one time was forced to sign a consent decree with the state to mitigate lead paint in nearly 500 properties.
Steger believes combining Rochkind’s name with the images of a cotton field and windows that appear firebombed plays up stereotypes of Jews as slumlords who oppress African-Americans.
“It’s not just the vandalism alone. We believe it’s a hate crime as well,” he said.
Brian Spern, an attorney who represents both NB2 and Rochkind added, “I think this is a blatant attempt to intimidate individuals who are Jewish. The mural speaks for itself when you see fire spewing. If anyone would have their name next to a mural of that nature, they would be afraid. They would be afraid they’re in harm’s way.”
What this is, really, is a blatant attempt by Rochkind and his agents to blow smoke up the Sun’s ass—and it worked.
“I did address the ownership issue with Justin George,” says Ott in an email to City Paper. “Look it up in the MDLANDREC database. Use the address as the search term and you’ll find the deed and assignments…with Stanley mentioned several times. I don’t know why Justin ignored that.”
Here is what the land and tax records tell us about NB2 Business Trust.
Registered in 2007 by Jack Novograd (a long-time Rochkind associate), it is domiciled at 5616 Park Heights Ave. The certificate of trust is in care of Charles Runkles—who is Rochkind’s other closest associate.
4727 Old York Rd. was transferred to NB2 in 2007 in a “non-arm’s length” transaction by its previous owner, NBS, Inc., whose address is also 5616 Park Heights Ave. and whose registered agent is also Charles Runkles.
Here’s NBS, Inc. filing to change its office in 2005:
It should surprise few to learn that 1003 Smoke Tree Rd. is the home address of Stanley Rochkind, according to state tax records.
And the 5616 Park Heights Avenue building? Also owned by Stanley Rochkind, according to the signature page on the deed of trust (see below).
But what of NB2, the owner of 4727 Old York? The answer is apparent from a 2010 “amended and Restated Indemnity Deed of Trust.” Beginning with a listing of dozens of addresses and an alphabet soup of LLCs and trusts, that document (appended below) on page 3 states “Whereas the Rochkind family Trust dated November 30, 2007 (Borrower) is justly indebted unto Stanley Rochkind and Rhoda Rochkind, his wife, as tenants by the entireties (“Holder”), in the principle sum of Four Millions One Hundred Ninety Three thousand Dollars ($4,193,000.00), represented by ‘commercial loans’ . . .” (and then it lists the various loans), and goes on to say that “WHEREAS, Borrower is the direct or indirect owner of all the beneficial interest of each of the Grantors herein or has a community of interest with the owners . . .”.
That is, the borrower, which is the Rochkind Family Trust, is “the direct or indirect owner” of all the collateral listed, among which NB2 Business Trust, which is the owner of 4727 Old York Road.
The lenders of that $4 million-plus are Stanley and Rhoda Rochkind.
So is Stanley Rochkind, as lender, the “owner” of 4727 Old York Rd.? Does he “control” the property, as Carol Ott and her artist friends believe? Or is it closer to the truth to say, as the Baltimore Sun did, that they “incorrectly labeled the trust ‘A Stanley Rochkin controlled entity’”?